$10,000 In 48 Hours (Without A Label)November 16th, 2009 by We Are Listening
Well, it’s been a good while, and our mailing list has continued to grow. In fact, it’s more than doubled in size since then, and we’re also in the midst of our first national tour! However, I wanted to write to answer one of the biggest questions that has arisen from my previous post. Gaining fans is well and good, but at what point can one expect to actually turn a fanbase into a living?
Well, we took our first stab at answering that question 2 weeks ago. We decided to offer this:
They’re Lifetime Membership USB Drives!
They come preloaded with all of the music we’ve ever released (including email-list only tracks), and they guarantee the owner a free digital copy of anything we ever release, as well as free admission to any live show of ours now and forever. And there will only be 100 ever made.
We posted the link, sent an email to our mailing list, and within 48 hours all 100 were sold.
So why were we able to sell 100 of these $100 drives, being only 9 months old as a band, having never had a label supporting us, and only being part way through our first tour? It wasn’t a terribly original concept. Plenty of bands have tried to raise funds by offering limited run, high price items, and usually they will succeed if they’re already well established (Nine Inch Nails, major label acts), and fail if they’re not (the rest of us). I believe there are 3 main reasons we succeeded:
1. We give a lot of free stuff away. A LOT.
As I discussed in my last article, we regularly send out free, high quality mp3 files to our mailing list. In fact, in the 9 months we’ve been a band, we’ve released over 15 free tracks to our subscribers (in addition to the 5 free songs they got for signing up!). We’ve also gone out of our way to create new kinds of free stuff for them. For example, when we reached 1000 subscribers, we offered them all free personalized signed wallet cards that certified them as one of our first 1000 fans. We made and mailed them out ourselves, and fans really appreciated them.
My point is this: we started our relationship with our fans by giving. And then giving more. Then more. This is the first time we’ve really tried to sell anything to our mailing list, and it’s been 9 months! Fans jumped at the chance to support us, and many many more were disappointed that we sold out so quickly, because they didn’t get a chance to buy. We’ve shown our fans that we respect them and support them, and now they want to do the same for us.
2. The upside is infinite.
With a limited edition box set or super-deluxe package, you know exactly what you’re paying for and what you’re going to get. However, with a Lifetime Membership, you will continue to receive value for the rest of your life! Believe it or not many of our fans actually apologized to us for buying the membership, feeling guilty because they knew they would get more than $100 value out of the cards and they didn’t want to cheat us!
At the same time, the downside for us is very minimal. Digital copies are free to make, and 100 fans spread across the world are easy enough to get free tickets for. It’s a win-win.
3. We’re selling Memberships, not Products.
Instead of selling a deluxe, signed, limited edition box set or product, we decided to sell memberships. The 100 people that own these cards are part of an elite club, and one whose membership will never expand, no matter how successful or well known the band becomes. We’ve promised there will only be 100 of these drives, and we will stick to that promise. It has become a matter of identity, not one of mere property.
So what does all of this mean? Well, we’ve taken the first step in turning our music into a living, and we’re incredibly happy with the results. Our fans are happier than ever too, especially the 100 who ended up with the Lifetime Memberships. Many of them have even reassured us that they’ll continue to buy merchandise and physical versions of our music in the future!
So what’s next? Well, we’ve still got to figure that part out. I’ll keep you posted!
- Brian (I Fight Dragons)